Idealists are the unicorns of temperament theory. This is not meant to be flippant, though it is worth mentioning that NF traits such as empathy and optimism frequently cause Idealists to be caricatured as hypersensitive, hippie-dippie dreamers that fantasize all day about misty rainbows, magic, and a perfect world filled only with purity and grace. Of course, like the unicorn itself, this perception is an illusion, and the real Idealist, the one of flesh and blood, is no more closer to virtue than the next person. Perhaps it is this myth that casts doubt on their existence at all. Identity-seeking, with an imaginative streak that can veer on otherworldly, Idealists often feel marginalized by a society that values the concrete over the abstract, material success over spiritual wholeness, and “fitting in” rather than “fitting out”. And unlike the equally rare Rationals, Idealists choose to assimilate with greater society, becoming quite adept at repressing some of their more esoteric proclivities. While hiding in plain sight might give them a sense of belonging, what Dolphins (ENFJs), Giant Pandas (INFJs), Baboons (ENFPs), and Humpback Whales (INFPs) really need is self-acceptance, and any thing or person that gets in the way of that goal is detrimental to an NF’s personal growth. Fortunately, many Idealists are able to find the confidence to be that one black horse in a stable of white horses or, better yet, a unicorn drifting in a sea of thoroughbreds.
Progress and Revolution
Idealists not only seek out their own identity, but also help others do the same. In their heart of hearts, Idealists believe that if everyone were to discover, and be appreciated for, their true selves, the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, Idealists constantly find themselves at odds with a social structure that discourages individuality in favor of a security brought on by traditions and standards that each individual must conform to. Mature Idealists, after going through the inevitable identity crisis that comes with being an outsider, work to change society in ways that will benefit all of its people, and not just the Guardian majority. Some choose to work within a system, while others choose to work outside of it.
Dolphins and Pandas are essentially “people” people, commonly found working in schools, hospitals, non-profit organizations, and governmental institutions. Their ability to bring incremental change stems from their strong organizational skills, patience, and willingness to compromise. For these Idealists, the advancement of ideals in any civilization must be paced by the readiness of its citizens; true progress is not a sprint, but a marathon that one must be prepared for- Dolphins and Pandas view themselves as personal trainers to the soul. Alas, the rules and regulations of any organization can be quite alienating, and it is not uncommon for Dolphins and Pandas to clash with their superiors if they feel that the value system they’re working under is flawed. However, due to their conciliatory nature, these Idealists are far more likely to repress their objections, leading to a situation where the individual feels powerless and trapped, toiling away in a machine that both underappreciates and diminishes them.
Power, or a lack thereof, is usually not an issue for the rebellious Baboons and Humpback Whales. Fueled by the power of their own convictions, these Idealists seek to bring change to society by attacking it from outside of its consecrated walls. For them, the spreading of ideals takes precedence over the will of the people; Baboons and Humpback Whales often follow a creed of “you’re either with me, or against me”. However, with their natural talent for inspiring and persuading others, Baboons and Humpback Whales are almost always successful at amassing followers, students, and supporters, no matter how controversial their ideas might be. Of course, this confidence comes at a cost: their revolutionary zeal can easily morph into demagoguery, and the spiritual isolation that comes with being a conduit for the hopes and dreams of an entire group of people frequently leads to a state of loneliness and depression.
Despite their differing priorities and approaches, the one thing that galvanizes all Idealists is the belief that the key to true happiness lies solely in the province of the individual. Most of the time, this is a faith that is hard-earned, as each and every Idealist, at some point in their lives, must fight their own battle with social conformity. For some, this emotional struggle is like a brief skirmish, while others must wage war for what seems like a lifetime. In the end, however, Idealists always emerge stronger than when they started, the bearers of emotional scars that serve not only as a display of the pain that they’ve suffered, but as evidence of their resolve. This is a courage that Idealists attempt to spread to everyone they meet. They believe that gaining self-confidence and an appreciation of one’s own individuality is far more valuable than any material wealth one could accumulate. Or as Nietzsche, a dyed-in-the-wool Idealist, once wrote, “…no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” After all, who needs a day job when you can have rainbows, magic, purity, and grace…